Deer Gun Season Looks Promising

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Falling leaves and falling temperatures signal one thing to Oklahoma hunters, the much-anticipated deer gun season is right around the corner.

Running Nov. 23 through Dec. 1, the deer gun season is undoubtedly Oklahoma's most popular hunting event in terms of overall participation. Modern firearms hunters also enjoy the greatest success in terms of harvest. In 2001, for example, more than 160,000 gun hunters checked in more than 55,000 deer, about 55 percent of last year's total harvest. With good weather, hunters can again look forward to excellent opportunities to harvest a deer this fall, according to Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

As always, pre-season scouting gives hunters a big advantage because it allows them to pattern deer movements and pinpoint areas of high activity. By spending a little extra time afield before the season starts, hunters can position themselves for an outstanding deer season. Keying on the right food source could make a big difference for hunters who spend some time doing a little legwork.

"It appears like we have had a good acorn crop in many areas of the state," Shaw said. "The availability of acorns, along with the presence of green browse, may result in the deer being more spread out and make them a little harder to pattern. It will be important for hunters to know what type of food items are available for deer, which ones they are using and how the deer are moving in the areas where they plan to hunt."

Shaw added that the overall condition of the deer is good due to a good growing season, although it is important that hunters continue to take advantage of antlerless hunting opportunities. In 2001, does accounted for 44 percent of the total deer harvest.

"Hunters play a vital role in the management of the deer herd by taking does and keeping the buck to doe ratios in proportion, which ensure that the herd remains healthy," Shaw said.

Hunters have an opportunity to take an antlerless deer in all 77 counties during the regular gun season and a special antlerless deer gun season is open in late December across much of the state. For antlerless deer hunt zones and dates open to antlerless hunting, pick up a copy of the "2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide."

Oklahoma residents must have an annual hunting or combination license, lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, senior citizen hunting or senior citizen combination license or proof of exemption. In addition, hunters must possess a deer gun (antlered or antlerless) license for each deer hunted, or proof of exemption. Resident hunters under 18 years of age may purchase either the youth deer gun license or the regular deer gun license.

All nonresident deer hunters must possess a nonresident deer gun (antlered, antlerless or combo) license for each deer hunted or proof of exemption. Holders of nonresident lifetime hunting and lifetime combination licenses are not exempt from purchasing deer licenses. Nonresident deer hunters are exempt from purchasing an annual nonresident hunting license.

Hunters may take a total of two deer, which may include no more than one antlered deer and one antlerless deer. Antlerless deer may only be harvested on specified days in certain zones. Harvest of antlerless mule deer is prohibited during deer gun season.

Upon successfully harvesting a deer, all license holders, including lifetime license holders, must immediately attach anything with their name and license number to the carcass. What the hunter attaches can be anything, as long as it contains the hunter's name and hunting license number and remains securely attached to the animal until it is checked at a hunter check station or with an authorized Wildlife Department employee.

Annual license holders, upon harvesting a deer, must complete the Record of Game section on the back of the universal license. The information must be recorded on the license form prior to moving or field dressing the animal. To do this they must tear out one of the notches on the license and print in ink the time, date, type of game and method of harvest on the notched line in the appropriate columns. Lifetime license holders are not required to complete the Record of Game section on the back of the universal license.

All successful hunters must check their deer at the nearest hunter check station. A county by county listing of hunter check stations is provided in this year's hunting guide.

Deer gun hunters should always remember to keep safety the first priority. All deer gun hunters must conspicuously wear both a head covering and an outer garment above the waistline, both totaling 500 square inches or more of clothing, both consisting of daylight fluorescent orange color totaling at least 400 square inches. Camo-fluorescent orange is legal, if the total orange meets or exceeds the required 400 square inches.

Persons hunting with archery or muzzleloader equipment during deer gun seasons must have a deer gun license and must comply with blaze orange requirements for deer gun season.

Hunting hours during deer gun season are one-half hour before official sunrise to one-half hour after official sunset.

For additional regulations, antlerless zones, check station locations, season dates and a wealth of other information be sure to pick up a copy of the "2002-2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide" available at all license dealer locations or log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.